Ham Salad – here I am attempting again … ugh, am I destined for failure?

I know I say my favorite (only) ham salad is from the Apple Market, but it is true. And then I look at the list of ingredients and see this: chopped ham. sweet relish, mayonnaise, onions, and black pepper.

D&D_2041And that really kind of makes me grumpy. Why can I not make a great ham salad out of simple ingredients. I do it with chicken salad, so what is the difference?? Makes me slightly crazy.

I do know I am going to have a ham salad sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. Yes, I eat all kind of random things for breakfast – cold tofu pad thai, pasta, cold pizza – and then some traditional things – peanut butter toast, toast with really good salted butter and apple jelly, toast with really good salted butter and local honey. Yes, toast seems to be a thing. Pop Tarts – specifically blueberry or brown sugar.

Okay, after wondering far afield, let us get back to ham salad.

1st – what kind of ham to buy and what to do with it. In the Apple Market version is seems more than just chopped as I know it. Almost minced. Maybe run through a food mill, or pulsed a few times in a food processor?  Wonder who at Apple Market I can bribe to find out the answer?

So what I did was buy an 8oz ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge, and cube it. Then I put it in the food processor for 8-10 pulses, until it looked like what I thought would work best. 

2nd – The sweet relish always made sense to me, but you should not go overboard, nor should you make it to liquidy – drain that relish for the most part, just like you do with deviled eggs.

This ended up to be about 3 Tbs, but that is a subjective thing – more or less if you would like.

3rd – Mayonnaise, Duke’s specifically, needs to be just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last.

It was only 2 Tbs and that was almost too much, but in the end, it worked out well.

4th – Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater.  Again, it’s the – how much – that’s the issue.

Tasting as I go along will be key. I took a small onion and instead of grating on a box grated, used the food processor to pulse it to very small pieces and kept the juice and used it too – about 3 Tbs total when it came down to it. I’d say 3/4 of a small yellow onion.

5th – Seasoning with black pepper should not be a problem. I love black pepper.

Now the question is do I just make it or do I have some Apple Market ham salad to compare. Is that wise? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Also, I must let this sit for at least a day or two. It tasted okay as I was going along, but I know I won’t really have a good idea for how it will work until it has sat in the fridge for at least, I’m thinking, two days.

It did make a difference. I had been worried I put too much mayonnaise , but after a days rest in the fridge, it worked well. Actually might have needed a bit more.

Chicken Salad

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Simple Chicken Salad

I seem to keep failing at chicken salad. I am not sure why, but this time, I really thought I got it. But to be honest, chicken salad is so pedestrian. I mean, pretty much any idiot can make it. That just makes me feel like a bit of an idiot because it does not seem to work for me.

All that said, this was pretty damn good chicken salad. Too bad I could not enjoy it like I wanted to.

I have no idea how my mom made chicken salad. One of the million of things I did not ask her – this seems to be a theme. Guess that is what happens when someone you love dies unexpectedly. So you just have to forge you own way in the world. Suck it up and deal.

I poach a chicken breast or two* – usually two and then add the usual suspects: celery, peeled of course and then minced, a few (3) chopped boiled eggs, some shallots – minced, parsley also minced, a little Duke’s Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard. And if I am feeling really frisky some sweet pickle relish. None of this is anything my mother EVER did. But this is pretty cool in the grand scheme of things.

My lovely mother-in-law makes great chicken salad and it is just the way I like it – with grapes and nuts, but the MotH does not care for that. Either way, this one is pretty damn good.

I guess this is another one of my non-recipe recipes. I do seem to have quite a few of them. But when I think of it, that does not seem to me a bad thing

*I could have poached the chicken with bay leaves and peppercorns and garlic, but I save the chicken water for Hood, so I go simple so I can give him a treat. What dog does not love chicken water? Um, none.

 

 

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

Potato salad is really illusive. It really should not be so difficult. It is just potato salad, but it can be good or bad. And most of the time it is not good, just sort of meh.

I have a few pointers from one of my best friends. While the potatoes are still hot, just dump that pickle juice on them – they totally absorb it. That does make a really good potato salad – it does.D&D_1431

2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled or not, and cubed
4 stalks celery, peeled (yes, peeled),  finely diced
4 scallions, finely diced
4 Tbs sweet relish, squeezed of most liquid
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
6 Tbs Duke’s mayonnaise – it really must be Duke’s

Set a pot of water to boil and salt it heavily – like the ocean. Add those Yukon Gold potatoes and boil until the potatoes are tender – which in my head means you can pierce them with a paring knife. Meanwhile, peel that celery (not kidding – a serrated peeler works the best), and then mince it. Mince the scallions too. Add to that the squeezed out sweet relish (my favorite kind) and you can add the relish juice to the cooked potatoes because that is pretty much amazing. Guess I should have said that earlier while the potatoes were warm but I think I did. Now let everything cool a bit.

So after waiting, we do the following: Add those hard boiled eggs, and the parsley. Combine the Dijon, lemon juice and Duke’s and mixed until combined. Add to the potatoes, but don’t go crazy.  You don’t want to break up the potatoes too much.

I made this for Easter this year, along with Baked Beans. But this was one of those just wing-it-kind-of-recipes. And that is what I did. Looked at lots of recipes, bought 5 pounds of Yukon Golds and went for it. It seemed to be a hit for Easter, but I am also thinking about it again for this summer – you know, picnic time.

I never have been on a picnic and that seems a damn shame  – will remedy that, at least I hope I will.

 

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

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Yukon Gold Potato Salad

We like to stop by Bailey’s Farmers’ Market to see what’s going on almost every weekend. It is right up the road from our house, and the hours are great (read: long). It is a fun experience and I have no plan when I go in – just buy what seems a good price – usually local – and then I get home and do the “what the hell am I going to do with this”  part of the equation.  But honestly, that is the fun part of the deal. I keep waiting for nectarine prices to drop (hello, cobbler), but a week ago the Yukon gold potatoes were excellent and beyond cheap (does that mean I’m cheap – probably), so I went for it and got a pound. That’s more than enough for me and the MotH since the Boy moved out. Sad, but inevitable – still make food for him though and that does ease it a bit for me.

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Vinegar, the kind you like best

1/3 cup sweet relish

1 rib of celery, peeled and small diced

Duke’s mayo

yellow mustard

1 scallion, sliced

2 Tbs flat-leaf parsley, minced

This is a no-recipe recipe. There is some methodology to it, but really you just taste and adjust as you go along.

Boil the potatoes in very salted water until they are easily pierced by a paring knife and then drain. The most important part is dousing the hot potatoes with vinegar and perhaps some relish juice – they soak it up like crazy. Then let them cool.

I tried this idea with Dijon mustard, but you need something more substantial – plain old yellow (hot dog) mustard. I think it is the extra vinegar factor and vinegar is a must with this non-recipe recipe.

Then just mix everything else in. And add chives, if you have them. Maybe a shallot or even grated onion, but I did not. I do not think the scallion was enough. This was a perfect Southern potato salad – at least to me it was.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

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Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Totally wrong time of the year, but you can’t help what you want when you want it. This is excellent!

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

  • 2 pkgs (6 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine sugar and orange juice in sauce pan. Boil until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and return to boil. Simmer until cranberries begin to burst. Let cool completely; mix in horseradish and cloves. Refrigerate.

Bench Notes: Easy peasy. I’ve been making this since (gasp) the late 1990’s. If I remember correctly, this was a Southern Living recipe and I used to make it for my small family but share half with a great friend and her family. Now I make for my larger family and another great friend, and her family enjoys it too.

I bring it to all Thanksgiving gathering whether anyone wants it there or not, because I like it – not any protest as far as I’ve heard. It will last in the fridge for months and is excellent on leftover turkey sandwiches esp. with bleu cheese dressing. And really good with any roasted meat. I make sure to set some aside for the best Mother-in-Law a wife could ever have.  But, by definition, it is Thanksgiving to me. My Thanksgiving because I made it when it was just me and The Boy.  Funny, because we always had the Ocean Spray canned stuff with the marked lines for cutting – which I also loved – growing up.* Guess we all grow up at some point.

Oh, and fresh cranberries can be stored in the freezer for later use – for about ever.  Nice since my grocery store sells them for Buy one – Get one for the week before Thanksgiving.

It’s now July and I am craving this. I think I know why. Our freezer puked back in the spring and I lost my cranberries and everything else except for the nuts and chocolate chips. Just couldn’t take the chance with the cranberries. But I am so ready for this Oct / Nov. Will not be w/out this again.

* We also had a pickle and olive tray at our Thanksgiving table. Olives – ugh, but sweet Gerkins were my favorites – other than bread & butter, the only pickle I like except for the ones I make. I think I may ask my Dad for that tray. Don’t expect anyone else will – at least I hope not.

Squash Relish

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Squash Relish

So after the last batch of squash pickles (Oct 2014), I decided I needed to work on the texture of them. Following the Man of the House declaring he liked the flavor, but not the texture. The texture was, how shall I put this, um, squeeky when you chewed them. So they weren’t really like a pickle at all which caused me to look at the method of making them.

First, considering the squash: using smaller, less ripe squash would help. Smaller would also lead to less interior seed space which gets softer faster. Removing the seeds entirely would help too, especially in larger squash.

Second, taking a lead from cucumber pickles, weigh the squash/onions down while salting/draining them. And consider chilling them with ice while doing this as well.

Then …

I went back to the original recipe and read it again. It appears I had been doing this wrong the whole time – for 10 years! I had always sliced the squash in rounds like, well, pickles. But the recipe is squash relish, not squash pickles, and if you read it, which I apparently didn’t, the squash and onions are chopped, not sliced. Duh.

So I actually did the recipe as it was supposed to – finally. I still think I want to come up with a way to deal w/the pickle idea. I was half way there without really trying.

10 cups squash, chopped
4 cups onions, chopped
5 Tbs salt

4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix squash and onions with salt and let sit overnight

Drain, mix all ingredients together and boil for thirty minutes.
Put in jars and seal. Can be hot water canned or refrigerated.

  • 5 June 2004. First adventure in canning
  • 12 June 2004
  • 4 September 2004 using turmeric is important, give pickles a honey color
  • 22 June 2008 made w/squash from Patton/Jeanette. Vg crunchy sweet/spicy

This vinegar / spice blend is pretty amazing. I have done this recipe with all sorts of variations  – but keep the ratio the same. Squash to onions to vinegar to sugar.